I published a preview of our new site a few days ago and while this gave readers a decent feel for the design path the new site will follow it doesn’t cover what’s going on in the back-end.
Non-techy readers can look away now.
4 years ago we were the first NHS Foundation Trust (and one of the first NHS organisations) to adopt WordPress as our CMS. Since then, WordPress has grown to become the #1 CMS on the web with massive penetration and growth happening over the past 18 months (take that nay-sayers).
Not long after launching our new WordPress-powered site I spoke about the experience and challenges that were involved at the WordCamp UK 2009 conference in Cardiff Bay, Wales.
Check out the slides from my presentation on SlideShare:
One lesson learned about WordPress is that for a large multi-headed beast of a site like ours a standard install isn’t enough.
Don’t get me wrong, we are coping fine with having over 500+ pages in our site on a purely technical level but structurally and organisationally our WordPress-install has outgrown its initial purpose. Thankfully WordPress has a trick up its sleeve to solve this; the WordPress MultiSite feature (AKA WPMU).
Our new structure will consist of a top-level site (or ‘root’) containing general information about the Hospital with our Services and Corporate information being given their own sub-sites in a MultiSite network.
Why do this? Here is a good example using buckets as examples that show our old (existing) structure and the new (planned) one.
Old site (existing) structure
New site (planned) structure
As you can see the MultiSite system not only allows for an instant improvement in the way our information is organised it also gives us greater flexibility as each sub-site in a MultiSite install can have its own custom theme, plugins and settings if needed.
In essence each site within the MultiSite system is its own, self-contained website.
Its also a massive improvement for Hospital staff as we can (eventually) nominate and train staff to have editor access to these sub-sites without worrying about them impacting on other areas.
With every site no matter how small being siloed-off like this (some will be no more than around 4 pages) we can ultimately build a flexible and future-proof network of service information that will be easier to keep track of and update than having multiple sites under a single WordPress install – pretty cool no?
Well, too much to go into here, but I’m sure you can imagine the questions:
- Better integration with Social Media? Yep!
- More effective Contact and Feedback options? Of course!
- Improved SEO and Accessibility? Sure thing!
- Better all-round performance? Damn straight! (even talk of a CDN on the horizon…)
- Responsive/Mobile ready/all that jazz? Yes, eventually! (this has been dropped as a launch priority)
This post should cover most of the technical aspects of the new build but I hope to publish more info over the next few months. We have saved a LOAD of time and effort by using WordPress more effectively this time around and although the development time-frame of this new version has been almost 12 months around 80% of that was spend doing strategy, engagement and R&D. The actual build-time will be no more than a couple of months.
Any further questions or feedback please leave in the comments